Review: Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black TideBlack Tide by K.C. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth is a bit of a hot mess and she’s the first one to admit it. She drinks a tad too much and has been known to flee in the face of responsibility; at least before.

Lately though, Beth has been turning things around. She’s been pet-sitting and feels like she is getting good at it. She’s even getting referred to new clients by happy patrons.

That’s how Beth ends up at a beach house on an empty stretch of the Oregon coast on the day the world ends.

She is staying with the best good dog, Jake, and all has been going well. She’s been spying a little bit on the man next door, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

He’s handsome, in a mysterious, scruffy sort of way. He seems lonely. Beth is all kinds of curious about this mystery man.

So, when she sees him drinking expensive champagne on his deck one evening, she heads over to introduce herself.

His name is Mike and he is a film producer. The two hit it off and spend the evening enjoying each other’s company in every way you can imagine.

That night, at Mike’s place, Beth doesn’t sleep well. Her drunken dreams are full of horrifying images that are still rattling around in her brain upon waking.

She finds Mike and Jake together on the beach. Apparently, Mike had gone to the dog’s rescue. Beth can’t believe she left Jake alone in the house next door overnight.

That’s what the booze can do; great decision-making, Beth.

Mike tells Beth all about the insane meteor shower he witnessed from the beach. There’s still evidence of the destruction it wrought. Plus, there’s the thing that he found.

The power is out, so they have no way of listening to any news. How wide spread was the event and what exactly was it?

They decide to drive up the beach and investigate where they believe one of the meteors actually struck. Maybe there will be someone around who knows more of what’s happening.

Black Tide is the most intense book I have read in a long time. Edge of your seat doesn’t even begin to describe it.

From that very first night, as the meteors start to fall, the tension begins. Driving down the beach the following day, they become stranded and the circumstances continue getting worse for the trio; yes, I am counting Jake.

The entire thing was a nail biter. I was yelling at the book, advising them what they should do: protect Jake at all costs!!

I love Sci-Fi Horror and I found this one to be incredibly fun. The concepts were unique, the character development was great and the build-up of intensity was fantastic.

It had such a claustrophobic feel. Oh My goodness, I am squirming even thinking about it!

I grew to really care for these characters. In particular, Beth and Jake. I felt like I was able to relate to Beth so much. It made the stakes feel a lot higher for me. I just wanted them to be safe.

I would definitely recommend this to any Horror Reader, but particularly to those who enjoy a lovely blend of Sci-Fi and Horror elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Black Tide releases on May 10, 2022.

Be sure to add it to your Spring TBR!!

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Review: Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

Such a Pretty SmileSuch a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Lila Sawyer, at 13-years old, is grappling with many things. One of the largest is coming to grips with her own sexuality. This issue is constantly at the forefront of her mind, but there are other things too.

Someone is taking and murdering girls in her area; girls that are about her age. Because of this her Mom, Caroline, has become really paranoid and strict about Lila’s whereabouts and movements.

It’s more than that though. It’s like her Mom knows something about what is going on and she’s keeping it, and her entire past, secret from Lila.

It appears that the killer, dubbed The Cur by media, has struck before. Lila hears her Mom talking about it; something about the past, about New Orleans.

Caroline Sawyer is a single-mom and successful artist, whose macabre sculptures composed of artifacts from nature, such as twigs and leaves, is heavily disturbed by the murders of the young girls.

She desperately wants to keep her daughter, Lila, safe. This monster has affected her life before and she can’t have it happen again.

Such a Pretty Smile follows the perspectives of both Lila and Caroline; Lila in 2019 and Caroline mainly in 2004. The narrative alternates until past and present slowly begin to merge into one horrifying showdown.

I really enjoyed this story. I found it to be wildly creative, brutal, bizarre and extraordinarily thought-provoking. DeMeester’s got a lot to say and she’s not afraid to say it.

She’s clearly not going to just be quiet and smile pretty. We’re here for it.

While I recognize this won’t necessarily be for every Reader, for me it was an impressive display of feminist Horror. The biting social commentary, my word, I doff my cap.

DeMeester’s writing is incredibly rich with dark, evocative imagery. I was essentially watching this entire story play out in my mind. I loved how she revealed certain aspects of Caroline’s past and how that played into their present.

This is the first that I have read from this author, although she has been on my radar for a while. I actually own a copy of her short-story collection, Everything That’s Underneath, and definitely plan to pick that up this year.

If you like dark, no-mercy stories, with vivid imagery and brain-rattling social commentary, you should absolutely give this one a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This story will stay on my mind for a long time to come!

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Rereading The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

I am sticking with my original rating of 4.5-stars, rounded down. There’s something about the final few chapters of this one that gets a bit convoluted for me.

I do still think the atmosphere in this is top-notch. Also, I love how McMahon formats her stories. The way she is able to blend historical perspectives with the present; chef’s kiss.

I’m super stoked for their 2022-release, The Children on the Hill, said to be inspired by Frankenstein!!!

Earlier:

Rereading with, you guessed it, my fabulous niece, Alyssa.
I recommended this book to her, so feel it’s only fair that I read it along with her.

I am so excited to be revisiting this one. I have recommended it to countless people since I originally read it in 2019. I have a feeling it’s going to be a full 5-star experience this time around.

Original:

**4.5-stars**

In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea lost her daughter under tragic circumstances. Unsurprisingly, Sara was racked by grief and unable to move forward.

She would do anything to bring her daughter back.

In the present, Ruthie’s mom has gone missing. It seems she simply walked out of their house, into the surrounding Vermont woods, and disappeared.

With no note, and no signs of a struggle, Ruthie is forced to care for her creepy little sister whilst investigating the mystery of her mother’s sudden departure.

What Ruthie doesn’t know is that she is living in the very same house once occupied by Sara Harrison Shea. Is that mere coincidence, or is her mother’s disappearance related to that fact?

When she comes across parts of Sara’s diary hidden in the old farmhouse, she discovers that sometimes the past really can come back to haunt you.

Following both past and present timelines, this eerie tale is filled with an overwhelming feeling of dread.

I feel like Winter is the absolute perfect season to read this book!

When it gets dark early, when it’s cold, when the wind blows long and loud into the night. The atmosphere is richly developed and absolutely my favorite part of the story.

I went into this book completely blind, only knowing that quite a few of my book friends have loved it.

I was impressed with McMahon’s writing. She has a very strong Horror voice and I definitely look forward to reading more of her works.

I feel like with this one now under my belt, I know more what to expect from her, and I’m damned pumped for it.

There were a few issues I had with the storyline. Nothing major, but just things I wish would have had more information, or context.

The use of diary entries was well done and as always, I felt that made me feel more a part of the story; like I was investigating it myself.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it. If you like a ghost stories with a dark and ominous atmosphere, you should definitely check this one out!

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Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened TeethNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Nothing But Blackened Teeth has wormed into my mind and it won’t go away. I cannot stop thinking about it!

I finished this story early this morning and have slowly raised my rating incrementally as the day has worn on. I started at 3-stars, in 12-hours, I have rounded up to 4-stars. Who knows how high this could go!?

What could be better than a long-abandoned, reportedly-haunted, Heian-era mansion as a intimate destination wedding location?

For Nadia and Faiz, nothing. Nadia has always wanted to get married in a haunted mansion and after their friend, Phillip, buys them all first class tickets to Japan, now is their chance.

The group, made up of Nadia, Faiz, Cat, our narrator, Phillip and Lin, do not all get along. In fact, I wondered frequently why they were traveling together.

Nadia and Cat hate each other, as do Lin and pretty much everyone else, except for Cat. There is tension and messy history; it’s a whole thing. As if the haunted mansion wasn’t enough, the stress of their interactions raised my heart rate.

As this is an novella, it is pretty clear right from the start that the reportedly haunted mansion, is indeed quite haunted.

This story revolves around a Ohaguro Bettari, which translated, if I am informed correctly, actually means, nothing but blackened teeth. This is a type of Yokai that I have never come across before and I found it fascinating.

Additionally, I have really only ever read about Yokai in Japanese-inspired Fantasy stories, which of course, is generally Dark Fantasy, but reading about Yokai in the Horror genre was completely new for me. I loved that aspect.

The haunted house vibes and the way that was presented was so engaging. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It was really well imagined.

I think my main issue with this story was the presentation; the writing style, or the narrative voice. I’m not sure which.

The writing seems so overdone. The use of ridiculously obscure vocabulary and nonstop, unnecessarily overwrought prose really rubbed me the wrong way while I was reading it.

The more I think about it though, I don’t think this was the author showing that they are the most intelligent person in the room, I think it is the personification of Cat’s character.

I could be interpreting this completely wrong, but I feel like Cat’s character, who doesn’t seem to like herself, had her intelligence as the one thing she could count out. Towards the end, as she was having one of her numerous fights with Nadia, she says how smart she is. I am smart, she exclaims.

Since the entire narrative is pretty much her inner monologue, I started to think about the story in that way, as that being her voice. Her way of seeing the world actually used those big words. That’s her crutch and it started to make sense that way.

After I had that realization, I became more forgiving about those aspects of the story that so heavily turned me off initially.

As this is a novella, there’s not a lot of build up and it did seem to end rather abruptly. As Horror novellas go, however, I would say this is a really strong one. It will definitely stick in my mind for along time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I would definitely be interested in picking up more from Cassandra Khaw!

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Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

The Death of Jane LawrenceThe Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Jane Shoringfield is a practical, independent woman, but she unfortunately lives in a time when that is sort of frowned upon; when it is expected for all women to marry and care for a home.

In order to best get by, Jane decides she does need to find a husband, yes, but she wants it to be a marriage of convenience. One where she will still be able to work and maintain a portion of her current independence.

She sets her sights on a handsome, yet reclusive, doctor, Augustine Lawrence.

Jane presents her plan to the good doctor and to her surprise, he accepts. He does have one condition, however, that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his decreipt manor on the outskirts of town.

Jane agrees, but when a freak accident strands her on the manor steps in the middle of night, Augustine must relent and let her in.

Jane is disturbed by the state she finds him in. He seems a different man, scared and paranoid. What is going on here?

By morning, Augustine seems to be back to his old self. Now that Jane has been introduced to the sinister mystery of Lindridge Hall, however, she wants to know more.

What makes this place so frighteningly special to Augustine and why didn’t he want her here?

As Jane goes deeper into her husband’s history, as well as that of Lindridge Hall, she is introduced to whole new worlds she never even knew existed.

The Death of Jane Lawrence has a super intriguing premise. It’s dripping in dark, gothic atmosphere and for that, I applaud it.

I appreciated the incorporation of occult ideas explored, as well as the build-up to the craziness.

With this being said, it got a little too crazy for my tastes. It felt too addled; like a non-stop fever dream. There was almost too much going on to be able to sink in and enjoy that rich gothic atmosphere. It just lost me.

I will admit to being a bit let down by this one. I was so looking forward to it and wish I could have connected with it more.

In spite of my slight criticisms, Starling’s writing style is quite pleasing. It has a nice flow and as mentioned before, it definitely delivers on atmosphere. I know a lot of Readers are really going to love this one.


Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies of this to read and review.

The narrator for the audiobook is fantastic, so I definitely would recommend giving it a listen if you have that option!

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Review: Cackle by Rachel Harrison

CackleCackle by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤🕷🖤

After Annie’s live-in boyfriend, Sam, breaks up with her, she’s devastated. Sure, she figures maybe they have gotten a little too comfortable lately, but she cannot imagine ever being with anyone else.

As a school teacher, she knows she can’t afford to live on her own in Manhattan, and at 30-years old, she’s too old to get a roommate. Sam is keeping their apartment and Annie agrees she’ll move on.

She applies for a teaching position in a small town in Upstate New York and when it is offered to her, she accepts.

After that, things begin to fall into place rather quickly. She ends up finding the perfect apartment, minus the tiny spider infestation, and the entire town seems warm and inviting.

Unfortunately, as Annie tries to settle into her new life, she is still just as heartbroken as the day she left the city and her old life behind. She can’t stop thinking about Sam and running endless what-if scenerios through her head.

Then she meets Sophie, a confident and mysterious local woman, who seems to have the entire town in the palm of her hand.

Intrigued from the start, Annie begins to spend a lot of time with Sophie; pretty much every spare moment. The good news is, Sophie is great at helping her take her mind off of Sam and her aching heart.

But when Annie can no longer ignore mysterious traits about Sophie, her circumstances begin to tip a toe into the ominous unknown.

I absolutely loved this story with my whole heart. It truly has such a powerful message. I think it will resonate with a lot of Readers.

It’s for anyone who has ever had a broken heart and found themselves on the other side, or anyone who needs to find the other side, pick this book up. You’re stronger than you know!

The way Harrison wrote Annie, what she was going through after the dissolution of her long-term relationship, it was extremely relatable. I was feeling every emotion she was feeling.

After she met Sophie, it was indeed distracting. I was equally intrigued by Sophie. What was going on with her? She was completely enchanting, mysterious, sexy, addicting; I wanted to know everything about her. I think I would have fallen for her as quickly as Annie did.

The small town, spooky vibes are on point throughout this story. It’s one of those stories where small town citizens act a little strangely around the new girl and you want to know why!

This is the perfect book for Autumnal vibes for someone who maybe doesn’t want to get too scary. Although, I will say, there were at least a couple of scenes in here that gave me legit chills.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I finished this at the end of August and it is still fresh in my mind.

I have no doubt this will be on my Favorites list for the year. Cackle is releasing on Tuesday, October 5th, so be sure to add it to your Spooktober TBR!!

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Review: Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy HollowHorseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Sleepy Hollow is back in this cleverly-imagined Historical Fiction Horror novel from Christina Henry!!

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow is set twenty-years after Ichabod Crane’s run-in with the infamous, Headless Horseman.

The legend is still told in town, but with that many years separating the incident from reality, people’s belief in the accuracy of the story, and the Horseman himself, have begun to dwindle.

Even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there on the night in question, passes the story off as village gossip. Nevertheless, Ben still enjoys playing Sleepy Hollow Boys in the local woods with his only friend, Sander.

Ben, born a girl, has never seen himself that way and chooses to live the way he feels, as a boy, regardless of how much his grandmother, Katrina, fights him on it.

It’s on one of these occasions, playing in the woods, that the first body is discovered. A local boy, missing his head and hands. Ben feels a dark energy permeating from the woods; could the Horseman be back?

When more victims start to be discovered, Ben doesn’t understand how people can continue to deny the ominous presence lurking just outside the village.

Discovering his own parent’s deaths may not have occurred how his Grandparents relayed to him, Ben now realizes he has a mystery to solve. Something is going on in his town and he needs to do whatever he can to protect the ones he loves.

Horseman sets a spooky tone from the very start; perfect material for this time of year, I have to say. If you are a fan of previous Sleepy Hollow content, including the original tale, I really feel this one is worth checking out.

I am always impressed by Henry’s dark imagination. While this is a bit of a slow burn, I had a great time reading it.

In my opinion, the story was original and fresh. The paranormal/spooky elements were well-constructed and I enjoyed getting to know Ben as a character.

As a 14-year old, Ben was strong-willed and courageous. Spurred on by the mysteries circling the town and his family, Ben was willing to do anything to get to the bottom of it all. I was definitely able to get behind that level of determination.

This is the perfect type of tale to pick up as we get closer to Halloween, but really, aren’t spooky stories perfect all year-round?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

Horseman releases today, Tuesday, September 28th!!

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Review: My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a ChainsawMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is Stephen Graham Jones most recent, brilliant, love letter to the Slasher genre. It’s also one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

I actually finished this on September 2nd. Subsequently, I wrote a full review, which if I do say so myself, was pretty darn good.

Then due to major stupidity on my part, my laptop got inadvertently shutdown and all of my efforts were erased.

Normally, I would try to find another person within striking distance to blame, but unfortunately, there was just me, my dog and a potentially haunted ceiling fan.

But I digress…

Jade Daniels is a social outcast in her small, lakeside town of Proofrock, Idaho. A half-Indian girl, forced to live with her abusive father, Jade changes her hair color often and views the world through a prism of her vast knowledge of the Horror genre.

As her high school career comes to a close, there’s not much on the horizon for Jade. She works as a janitor for the local public school system, and it seems she may be doing so into the future. That in and of itself is fine. If she could just stay away from her Dad and his pervy friend, it would be okay.

When mysterious events around town start mirroring the plot structure of her favorite genre, however, Jade knows it’s finally happening. She’s excited by the prospect.

Proofrock has a slasher on their hands!

Therefore, she does what any logical Horror aficionado would do and tracks down the most logical choice for final girl, so she may teach her how to save herself and the town.

Sure, there will be a high body count, it’s almost time for the annual 4th of July celebration, after all. We all know Slashers cannot resist events like that, but the final girl should still be able to stop him. Eventually.

I’m always amazed by how much Jones can pack into a story. Each page feels like a Master Class in the Horror genre; full of references and rules that make my heart soar.

In addition to that though, he always doses us full of hard-hitting real world issues as well. There are many layers here, as there are in other novels of his that I have read.

This story was so much fun to read. It’s intricate, gritty, bloody, gory, smart, sarcastic, biting and fierce. The writing is top-notch and it’s going to remain in my mind for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Saga Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am sure there are a lot of things I am forgetting to mention about this, but what can I say? I’m silenced by greatness!

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In a quiet town, at the end of a typical neighborhood street sits a well-worn home with boarded-up windows. In the house lives an eccentric man named, Ted.

Ted has a daughter named, Lauren, who sometimes visits. Although never seen playing outside, the neighbors can hear her sounds of joy and sometimes discontent, well enough, ringing through the walls. Also, residing in the home, is Ted’s little furry companion, Olivia the cat.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Ted, Olivia and a neighborhood woman who just moved to the street, their intertwining tales of horror begin to unfold and their connections are laid bare.

It’s clear Ted’s musings may be unreliable. Can you trust what he is thinking? The way he wants you to see the story? What about Olivia? She’s just a cat. Could she possibly understand the intricacies of the human mind?

And what of the neighbor woman? She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Ted, but is she correct about what he is?

Y’all, this is definitely one of those books that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I listened to the audiobook and feel it’s an excellent way to take in this story. I was pulled in from the very start.

The writing style is quirky and a perfect fit for this story. In my experience, it added to the overall sense of unease, because it took my mind a couple of seconds after each sentence, or statement, to string it all together.

That sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It’s like my mind was clicking through all it had heard, trying to figure out the truth, but couldn’t.

You know intensely from the start that all is not as it appears to be. It’s not cut and dry.

It’s a headscratcher and beyond compelling. There are clever misdirections, shocking revelations and soul crushing snaps back to reality. It’s a dark and heavy tale that breaths sinister unknown out of every pore.

Overall, I found this to be a satisfyingly unique and stirring Horror novel. It’s 100% memorable and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was an ideal way to kick off my Spooky Season reading!!!

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Horrid by Katrina Leno

HorridHorrid by Katrina Leno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her Father’s unexpected death, Jane and her Mother, Ruth, are forced to leave California behind and move to the distant state of Maine.

Due to money troubles, Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep them in their family home, however, she fairly recently inherited the home she grew up in. Problem solved, off they go.

While it’s not ideal, Jane seems to be handling it all fairly well. Maybe it is due to the numbness she feels about her Dad’s passing. It’s like she’s seeing the world through a haze; it’s surreal.

Arriving at North Manor, they find it in quite a state of disrepair. Add it to the list of unpleasant circumstances lately, but regardless, they know they can make it work.

As Fall, the most perfect season of the year arrives, Jane begins to settle into life in their new town. While she makes a couple of good friends, she also seems to draw the attention of the local bully, Melanie.

Melanie seems to have a particular distaste for Jane; it’s a little strange considering they only just met. It’s like Melanie’s holding a grudge against her, but why?

It’s not just Melanie though. There’s something about the house itself that’s off. Jane feels unsettled there and she’s experiencing things she can’t explain.

Her Mother also seems to be spiraling back in her childhood home. Jane suddenly feels the need to learn why Ruth left all those years ago, and why did she never choose to return?

Horrid is an another fabulous example of Katrina Leno’s unique style. Leno’s writing is beautiful, introspective and always seems to tackle fairly heavy topics with grace.

In this one, as the truth behind North Manor, and all that occurred there, was slowly revealed, I was completely drawn in. I could picture it all playing out extremely vividly.

The Horror imagery was well done in my opinion and I enjoyed how Leno structured the reveals. It kept me engaged throughout. I needed answers!

As always, I appreciated how much substance Leno brought to the table with this. Jane is a character struggling with grief, loss and self-doubt; all while outwardly projecting that she is okay. I think masking one’s negative emotions behind a cloak of, I’m fine, is something a lot of Readers will be able to relate to.

Additionally, Jane finds comfort in books and there was quite a few references to Dame Agatha Christie and her works. It’s hard not to find that endearing.

I will mention a trigger warning for self-soothing via (view spoiler)

Overall, I felt this was really well done and I enjoyed my time with it. It included a lot of tropes I tend to enjoy, such as long-buried family secrets, returning to a hometown and haunted houses.

I am also a big fan of Leno’s writing and this only served to reinforce that fact.

Now that we are in the midst of Spooky Season, y’all know it starts September 1st, I encourage you to give this one a go. It’s wickedly entertaining!!

**Please note, I picked this up as part of Bookoplathon ((my favorite Readathon ever)) as a Poll Pick. This was the winner of a poll I ran on Twitter. I am so happy with it. Thank you to all on Twitter who voted!!

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